BOSTON -- Early penalties killed the Senators last night.
But in a different twist, it was early penalties to the Boston Bruins that did them in.
Trying to extend their winning streak to five games, the Senators were not beaten by their own players being sent to the sin bin but by Boston's guys stepping out of it.
Before the game was seven minutes old, the Senators were twice victimized by the long bomb to a dark-sweatered player who had just done time. The first sent Aaron Ward on a breakaway and to a goal seven seconds after he finished serving a penalty. The second led P.J. Axelsson to a goal 11 seconds after he had finished spending two in the box for roughing.
The Senators fell into a 3-0 hole before the 11-minute mark. They rallied, but fell short, with a 5-3 loss to the Eastern Conference leaders in front of 17,022 at TD Banknorth Garden.
The setback snapped Ottawa's winning streak at four games and -- with just 15 dates left on the schedule and 94 points considered to be the cutoff mark for playoff participation -- the Senators would have to run the table to get in.
"You've just got to worry about the next game," said captain Daniel Alfredsson. "We can't focus on the end.
"Obviously, it's encouraging the way we came back in their building. But it would have been nice to keep our streak going."
The goal by Ward, a former Nepean Raider, was not only the first short-handed marker of his 14-year career, but also his first on a breakaway.
The play could have so easily gone the other way.
Dany Heatley was in the process of finishing off a nice passing play when his shot at the open side of the net was stopped by the stick of ex-Senator Zdeno Chara.
The Bruins were quickly on a break that led them to a lead they would never relinquish.
"(We made) a couple of mistakes early, and that cost us the game," said coach Cory Clouston, who was going with an all-forward combination (Heatley, Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Mike Comrie) on the 4-on-3 in the seconds before Ward's ice breaker. "The first goal, we have a wide-open net, Chara got his stick on it when he just kind of spun around.
"We have a 4-by-6 to put it into and it hits an inch-and-a-half wide shaft.
"Instead of us being up 1-0, we're down 1-0. We kind of scrambled to get back in the game all night, and we did so, but we just missed a couple of good chances toward the end."
The scramble included a goal by Spezza that cut the deficit to 3-1 before the intermission, a Christoph Schubert goal that made it 4-2 after a Phil Kessel goal and then Spezza's 25th of the season that pulled the Senators to within one with still almost 11 minutes to go.
Making his first start since March 3, Alex Auld couldn't be faulted on the goals.
Boston had lost five of its previous six games and 11 of its last 15.
The Senators will practise at Harvard today before taking an afternoon flight to Pittsburgh for tomorrow afternoon's game against the Penguins.